Tribute: The audience were treated to a selection of evergreen and not-often-heard P. B. Srinivas songs, thanks to a suggestion the great singer had made to C. A. Raja of Pranavam when he was alive

Musical tributes to legends — living and those of the past — aren’t unusual. But in thought, approach and execution, Nenjam Marappadhillai, the recent show in memory of the late playback singer, P. B. Srinivas, held at Rama Rao Kala Mandap, stood apart. Presented by Pranavam, the light music troupe that specialises in melodies of the bygone era, Nenjam … was open to all fans of PBS, free.

Not often do you hear of a great singer requesting a youngster well-versed in yesteryear melodies to present a programme of his favourite songs he had sung in his heyday. But at the beginning of the year, PBS had suggested to C. A. Raja that his Pranavam should render some of his rare numbers on stage — numbers never before heard at light music shows. “I considered it a great honour and began working on the idea at once. We planned to have it on his birthday this year (September 22), but sadly he passed away much earlier,” Raja struck an emotional chord.

Though PBS passed away before his wish could become a reality, Pranavam saw to it that the task was accomplished. Thus out of the 30-odd numbers sung that evening, 22 had been selected by the legend himself! For the audience, including those who were quite familiar with the songs of the 1950s and 60s, many numbers were ones they heard for the first time. Yet, the list also included PBS’s evergreen melodies such as ‘Anbu Manam …’ (from Aalukkoru Veedu). Even among seniors, not many would have heard of films such as Ravichandran’s Kalyana Mandapam or the unreleased Paatondru Kaettaen. But Pranavam had managed to get the tunes and lyrics of the songs from those films. “Ali Khan, who has a large collection of old songs, was our source,” acknowledged Raja.

The next surprise was Dr. Kamala Selvaraj in the avatar of a singer! Her two duets with Raja were not exquisite exercises in melody, but she endeared herself to the audience with her sportive spirit, as she candidly spoke of her limitations as a singer. “Pardon me for any error, because this isn’t my profession. I’m here because of my love for PBS, my father (Gemini Ganesan), for whom he sang these songs, and Savithri who was part of the sequences,” she said.

Srinivas’ two sons, Phaninder and Nanda Kishore, who rendered a couple of their dad’s hits appreciably, upped the sentiment quotient of the evening. “They are chartered accountants and their professions are far removed from art. Yet music is in their genes,” lauded Raja.

Cheerful demeanour, appealing stage presence and expressive singing are Raja’s forte. That evening was no exception. Singer Subramaniam’s voice has the timbre of P.B. Srinivas. Though he went a little off-key at times, his effort deserves mention.

“PBS’ soul must be here this evening, happy that his wish is being fulfilled. Our troupe is blessed,” said Raja. The audience felt so too.